A Standardized Method for Using EEG to Measure Stress Reduction and Mediation Depth

A new study has proposed a standardized way of using brain wave measurements to track psychological improvement and meditative states.
By: Energy Psychology Group, Inc
PETALUMA, Calif. - Feb. 9, 2023 - PRLog -- Most studies measure changes in psychological conditions like anxiety, depression and stress using standardized questionnaires filled out by participants. However, these conditions can also be measured using EEG (electroencephalogram) readouts of brain wave activity. While questionnaires reflect peoples' subjective experience, brain wave activity as measured by the EEG offers an objective way to measure information flows in neural circuits.

The EEG readouts of stressed people show a greater intensity of a fast brain wave called beta 2, and corresponding reduction in other frequencies. Slower alpha waves appear as people calm down, and meditation training using EEG typically guides participants into generating alpha waves.

The field of neurofeedback uses this information to show people how to relax. Electrodes are placed on the surface of the scalp, participants see their brain waves in real time, and then practice exercises or mental states that produce the waves characteristic of serenity.

Because of the variety of neurofeedback devices and lack of common standards, neurofeedback has gained only a limited foothold in primary care despite hundreds of studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Typically, each study uses unique criteria for interpreting its results, making it difficult to generalize benefits of neurofeedback as demonstrated by its extensive scientific literature.

A research team led by Dawson Church of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (NIIH.org) looked for a standardized EEG pattern that could measure the reduction of psychological distress and the depth of meditation. They examined the brain wave readouts of 117 people attending a four-day meditation workshop led by author and educator Joseph Dispenza.

After the training, participants were able to acquire and sustain a stable alpha brain state more quickly. The intensity of their beta 2 brainwaves, the signature wave of stress, diminished greatly. At the same time, their intensity of delta, a wave associated with the deepest levels of relaxation, increased. The amount of time it took them to enter meditation diminished significantly.

The changes in brain waves were associated with significant increases in subjective wellbeing. Happiness increased while anxiety and depression decreased. The results were maintained on 6-month follow-up.

The NIIH study found that the ratio of beta 2 to delta brain waves was a common measure of relaxation and the depth of meditation. The research team recommended that this be used as a standard for future research. Such a standard would overcome one of the primary obstacles to having neurofeedback adopted in primary care.

A common standard for EEG research could accelerate the development of neurofeedback-based therapies that reduce stress and provide a yardstick for measuring the effectiveness of meditative practices.

Full study: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.928123/full
Source:Energy Psychology Group, Inc
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